Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is that all there is?

Depending on where you live, or where you grew up, this weekend provided an extreme set of highs and lows. We moved into the middle of the NFL playoffs and the greater portion of prime time television was jam-packed full of pregame analysis, play-by-play coverage, interviews, and post-game autopsies with the winners and losers.

For me personally, last week was quite satisfying, as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Indianapolis (once the Baltimore) Colts. Yes, there is justice!

This weekend, the Baltimore Ravens faced the Denver Broncos and played into double overtime. While ”a pall like silence” fell on the  Denver fans, there were shouts of jubilation in Baltimore, as a rookie kicked a field goal to secure the victory.

Throughout my contacts on Facebook and e-mail, the Internet was alive and sang with great excitement over this incredible victory. There were great notes of happiness, but now everyone has settled back into Monday and every day existence, uncertain if today is worth living or not as they look towards the game against New England this weekend.

In the midst of this football frenzied weekend, an important, but little known individual committed suicide.   Aaron Swartz, 26, was found dead in his apartment after hanging himself. Aaron became an Internet folk hero at the age of 14 when he helped to create RSS (Rich Site Summary) which gives you the ability to publish and receive frequently updated information such as blogs, news headlines, audio and video in standard format. Virtually every commercial website makes this available so you can get updated information automatically. Within the Internet community, he was famous, receiving high praise and accolades for his brilliance and foresight, not to mention that financially he lacked for nothing

The topic of suicide may make you uncomfortable or you think that it doesn't touch you in your life. I understand, but suicide has deeply impacted me and my family. I have three close family members that have also come and ended their life. The statistics about suicide in America are epidemic in proportion:

  • 38,364 – US annual suicide rate
  • 959,100 nonfatal attempts at suicide
  • one suicide every 13.7 minutes across the US
  • one suicide every day for active military personnel, now eclipising deaths in combat
  • third leading cause of death among US young behind accidents and homicide

Depression and suicide do not discriminate; no matter your background or personality we are all susceptible. You could've had an economic windfall or free-for-all, depression and suicide are equal opportunity oppressors.

If we live in a world that was created by chance, then Aaron's actions make sense. No matter what our achievements, no matter our bank account, no matter our past, present or future; there truly is nothing to look forward to.

Remember Melvin Udall, as played by Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets?" He asks if this is all there is to life and is this as good as it gets. While Jack received the Oscar for best actor, his portrayal and words knife us in the heart as we ask the same question about ourselves? Our life? Whether there is any meaning and purpose?

Jesus understands our needs for comfort and strength to live today, even though depression and suicide. He does not promise to eliminate it; he does not give us a winning lottery ticket to solve all our feelings of guilt, depression, inadequately or failure. What he does offer us is himself. He offers “rest for our souls” when we come to him exhausted, worn out, bent over with the weight of everything that we carry around inside.

This past week I ran into a situation where I came to that place. Working hard to achieve a goal, things just didn’t work out. Try as hard as I might, it just didn’t come to fruition. My life’s history would lead me down the well-worn path of feeling spent, discouraged, like a failure. But then a dear friend spoke words of truth and encouragement into my life. He grabbed my face, looked me straight in the eye and said “Don’t let this bother you. Jesus has great love for you.” Words cannot express what a difference that made to me.

While I’m not right there with you, let me reach out and repeat those same words to you. Jesus has open hands and arms to hold us, open ears to listen and an open heart to love. Strength, renewal and encouragement come when we bring it all to Jesus. He alone can share our burdens and walk with us. No one else in all history made such a claim, and he keeps his promises…there is more.

Blessings - Chet 

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

http://www.nytimes.com, Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide, By JOHN SCHWARTZ, January 12, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com, Suicides Outpacing War Deaths for Troops, By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, June 8, 2012
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

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